Category Archives: Quayside

Digital Story Telling Unconference – July 13

My job is storytelling – peoples’ stories, corporate histories, stories of big needs and big challenges, personal moments, things learned and passed on. I’ve done a story that shares the lore of a lakeside cabin, one about an adult child’s devotion to mom’s cooking, and a salute to a family’s golden retriever that was part kid, part nanny and part saint.

Nearly three years ago, I started up a conversation with with Denim and Steel’s Todd Sieling and Tylor Sherman, and product designer Kaishin Chu about the possibilities for digital storytelling. We didn’t have an unconference in mind, but it surfaced pretty quickly. The four of us got seriously excited. It seemed like the natural extension of Todd and Tylor’s concept for a forum where people with tech and non-tech creative skills could come together. No insistence on outcomes, just a keen interest in what this kind of enriched chemistry might produce.

So, an unconference? I didn’t have the vaguest idea what that entailed. I had worked on conventional conferences before, and the stress those events produce didn’t carry much appeal. To get me started, the concept was outlined and I was given links to explore. I did my reading but remained pretty skeptical. I could appreciate the immediacy and power of the self-organizing, creative ideal, but figured it could just as easily devolve into a free-for-all, unfocused mess. But, my three comrades were eloquent and compelling, so I braved it out.

July 10, 2012, the day of the first Digital Storytelling Unconference. Fifty-plus people arriving at the New Westminster Network Hub (At the River Market on Westminster Quay – the view alone is worth the visit). Lots of friendly milling. People moving together and then apart and then together again, many times. On cue we collect in the Network Hub’s main meeting space. After a quick welcome, and quicker explanation of a few ground rules, we launch.

Thirty-second pitch slam not what I expect at all. It stokes the group energy. My turn. I stand up, speed through my session pitch (all about what I call life mapping, in just under 30 seconds, I reckon) and I sit down. Then the self-selection part that I am the most curious, and the most skeptical, about. We swarm the bulletin board to mull the pitch options written on Post-it Notes. Only a couple of moments of seeming confusion while choices are recorded, then a return to seats. The day is set. I’ve never seen a menu of possibilities so quickly parsed into a working schedule.

I decide to surrender my cynicism to the day. I’m excited now. A pause to review and clarify then we head to first sessions. Lots of talk in hallways and quick, impromptu meetings out in the Market concourse in front of the Network Hub.

From a year’s distance the energy resonance is clear, a good hum that I can still conjure – ideas still percolating. Most details are blurring now. But I remember the guy, Todd Smith of Motion Design, who sparked my interest with an idea he had about an interviewing technique he called “Breadcrumbing.” And there was the woman, seeking help for her community organization to get the success stories of kids at risk out to a wider audience.

I haven’t had a day like DSU in a very long time, where I found myself so juiced. I was surrounded by strangers who shared some of my questions about how community can be made stronger through digital storytelling. DSU Vancouver 2013 can only be better.

 John Wellwood is the Creative Director at Echo Memoirs, an attendee and sponsor for this year’s Digital Storytelling Unconference, held at The Network Hub this coming Saturday, July 13 from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Your $25 (+ fees) ticket registers you for the event, plus gets you lunch and refreshments for the day. You can find them on Twitter @DSUVancouver or check out their website at www.digitalstorytellingunconference.org for more info. 

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Freelancer Unconference This Saturday + Ticket Giveaway!

I never thought I’d be a freelancer, but here I am, doing it, and I am so happy to have made the switch. It is not for everyone but it works really well for our family. So, I’m really bummed out that I won’t be able to make it to the upcoming 3rd annual FreelanceCamp at The Network Hub – New West, taking place this Saturday September 15, from 9-5. It’s a full day unconference style event on all things related to freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners. But you should really go. Here’s why:

As unconference camps go, all sessions that will be held that day are decided that morning. Anyone who wants to lead a session pitches, and the attendees vote on which ones they like. The sessions then get scheduled on a board, where there are typically 3 to 4 sessions that happen every hour for the whole day. You can find out more info about the event here: http://www.thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp/

Photo by Jeremy Lim

There are lots of freebies to be received (moo cards!), and lunch (from Re-Up BBQ, Fathom, Pamola or Wally Burger) is included in your ticket price of just $15. Seriously – $15. That is an amazing deal. Note that The Network Hub will be receiving zero dollars. This year they’ve decided that 100% of the proceeds (after lunch expenses) will be going to Kiva.org. They’ll be funding small business owners in the developing world, and will have a session on Saturday so that the attendees themselves can decide which projects the funds should go to. The pool of funds can then get bigger and bigger every year, and they can keep supporting more and more entrepreneurs in the developing world to help them sustain their communities.
Attendance is capped at 150 because of space constraints, so I recommend signing up ASAP. We are also super excited because The Network Hub has given us a pair of tickets to give away. To win, leave a comment and let us know what class you’d love to lead and sit in on if this was your conference. We’ll draw the winner Friday at 8AM using a random number generator.
(PS: If you are planning on going, but want to enter, go ahead and buy your tickets and if you win you’ll get your purchased tickets refunded)

 

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Dumped Mattresses KVT Photography

Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.

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River Market ‘Goes Country’ to Raise Funds for Royal Columbian Hospital

River Market will step back in time to reinvent a Royal Columbian Hospital tradition: the Country Fair fundraiser. From 1943 to 1969 RCH volunteers invited residents to the “Come One, Come All to Country Fair” held at the City Market in New Westminster. During this year’s Canada Day long weekend, River Market will host an updated version of the Country Fair in a four-day fundraising extravaganza celebrating RCH’s history and contribution to New Westminster.

Kicking off the weekend celebration, River Market will host an evening fundraiser “150 & Going Strong” on Thursday June 28th featuring celebrated rhythm and blues musicians Lesismore and a menu of fantastic BC wines paired with local food prepared by River Market restaurants. Historians Dale and Archie Miller will regale guests with stories from the hospital’s incredible 150 year history. Tickets for the fundraiser are just $35 and can be purchased online.

On Friday June 29th River Market Food Hall will be transformed into a walk-in movie theatre where families can watch Footloose and grab dinner from one of the many restaurants including newly opened Re-Up BBQ and Wally’s Burgers.

Saturday June 30th is when the Fraser Goes South! The Market will be overrun with gingham, hay bales, sunflowers and specially handcrafted tea bar by Great Wall Tea. There will be entertainment for the whole family including a performance by the Vancouver Circus School, Square Dancers and musical performance by the New Westminster Secondary Jazz Quintet. River Market patio will play host to a bevy of country fair novelty games, animals from KJM’s Southland Farm location and so much more. Thankfully the prizes for winning the novelty games will not include a squirrel cape, which was a featured prize at the 1948 Country Fair! A perfect way to wrap up the weekend and to celebrate Canada Day will be a pancake breakfast at Paddlewheeler Pub from 8am – 10am continued with a Crepes breakfast, music, face painters and Canada Day fun for all.

Proceeds from all four event days will benefit the recently established Brooklyn’s Wish Fund in support of Royal Columbian Hospital families who due to unexpected medical circumstances require their newborns to receive care at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU.). Families often struggle with travelling time, parking and paying for accommodation while their newborn receives care and Brooklyn’s Wish Fund was set up to help parents and caregivers as much as possible.

For more information on how you can take part in River Market Country Fair festivities please contact call 604-520-3881, email events@rivermarket.ca or visit rivermarket.ca/events.

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Westminster Pier Park Exceeds Expectations

Despite the pouring rain, spirits were incredibly high at the opening of the Westminster Pier Park.

The park is beautiful – it is sweeping and interesting, and integrates places to play with spaces to relax. It is visually interesting and they’ve made smart choices with landscaping and structures. It is not all flat, either – I was expecting it to be since it is perched on the river’s edge. But the park design incorporates elements that remind me of the river itself, like this rolling grass area.

I like the way you see the water swirling and rippling in this part:

There are a few trails that diverge and are made from different materials, which provides interest and different angles. I was kind of pleased to discover some picnic table areas along the back – each one is surrounded by plants so they felt a little private.

There are a few different playground structures, and my son loved them all. They feature very interesting toys that incorporate sand play, levers, steering wheels, and lots of wood. I even kind of like the stumps – although I wasn’t sure of them at first glance.

 

The nods to history are amazing, some subtle, some a bit more in your face. Along the boardwalk are words cut into iron plates – some are place names, some are names of special New Westminsterites, and some are just words we all know and love.

I ran into a senior who has lived in New Westminster for many years, and she was misty-smiling when she saw the iron words along the walkway. “So many memories,” she said, pointing to some. “I haven’t thought of some of these since I was a girl.”

The amphitheatre area is also beautiful. The images printed on steel flashing is really unique, and I love the pictures they chose – they aren’t all special moments – some of them are just people living and enjoying New Westminster.

The building nicely integrates with the park. Despite the worry I had that the beamed structure would overpower everything, it doesn’t. It fits in nicely and provides a great central part of the park. Those reclining chairs are awesome, too.

I do think there are a few kinks that need to be worked out, and some of them will likely be worked out in the “phase 2″ expansion or in the coming weeks as people use the park and provide feedback to the Parks, Culture, and Recreation department.

My biggest beef is probably the one I have heard the most – the access isn’t as good as it could be.  There is really only one entrance in and out of the park, and it is at the far end of a privately owned pay parking lot with tonnes of giant puddles and poorly marked spaces. For me the park features mitigate the poor access, though, and it’s not enough to keep me away. As well, an accessible pedestrian overpass is coming by the end of 2013 that will connect Fourth Street to the park.

I don’t much care for turning around and looking at a giant, dark, looming parkade. I’m in the “tear it down” camp when it comes to the parkade, so perhaps I’m biased. I think it ruins what could be a fantastic urban view of some of the historic buildings along Columbia and might give some of the property owners an impetus to come out from behind the shadows and take ownership on how the buildings look.

I also completely missed the basketball court (the photo below is Briana’s) and when I realized my error, I wished there was a “you are here” type of map at the entrance to help with wayfinding. I can imagine meeting friends from other communities who have never been to the park before and it being tricky to explain where to go.

I cannot wait to spend a sunny summer day at this park (or simply a dry day, for that matter!), and to enjoy a picnic and the park features with my family. So many people worked on this park, and they should be commended for what they’ve done. This park far exceeded my expectations about what it would offer the people of New Westminster and today reaffirmed that I am so proud to call this city home.

Briana posted a number of other photos on our Facebook page.

Tell us what you think of the new park!

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Small acts of community in our own little garbage patch

The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.

The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.

The other day I noticed a bunch of Canadian geese down at the Fraser River Styrofoam patch. Why, I wondered, would they prefer to toddle here rather than fly south for the winter? More importantly, I wondered why was no one cleaning this mess up.

The area in question is home to a bunch of stray logs that get jammed into a small grassy, muddy alcove making it a perfect catchall for all kinds of debris.

These logs, which look natural and quite fetching tangle themselves up with those nasties; large pieces of Styrofoam, their offspring chunks and worst of all those pellet sized eggballs that are near impossible to pick up.

I think we all know that Styrofoam is bad and unsightly on our shoreline, but why is it so bad?

Well aside from those crumbling little eggballs that birds and other wildlife seem to find so tasty and then get sick from because it blocks their digestive system which ultimately causes starvation, new research shows that contrary to popular belief, plastic and its chemically gassy, blown-up sibling Styrofoam may actually be breaking down in as little as one year, if the conditions are right.

So the good news is that plastics may be breaking down in no time; the bad news is that these plastics may be releasing all their unpronounceable and potentially toxic chemicals in to our water system a whole lot sooner than we thought.

Well thank goodness none of us drink from the Fraser.

Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.

Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.

And as an aside… why don’t we recycle Styrofoam? As it turns out, no one wants to. Apparently, it can’t be made into much except plastic lunch trays and packing material and it costs a lot to do that. Additionally, the pollution generated by making these lunch trays etc. is far more than making them from scratch.

So anyway, back to the garbage patch that my dog Lamb and I have been walking past for years. It’s interesting because it changes. I’ve seen some really big stuff in there. I once crawled down to investigate an industrial cooler that was about three quarters the size of a refrigerator. My mischievous self wondered if wasn’t big enough to contain a body or some other nastiness.

Anyway this stuff does occasionally appear and surprisingly disappear, but not often enough for my liking. So today I put on my boots, a warm winter coat and red rubber gloves. I grabbed my rake, garbage bags and the Lamb and off we went to clean the mess up.

Lamb in tow, I tossed her over the rail, in order that she may have a good spot for supervising. The idea being that if I fell in or hurt myself she’d sound the alarm.

Once down there you become aware that it isn’t just Styrofoam, it’s all kinds of stuff. And in keeping with the recent Queensborough Shoreline Clean Up initiative held this past September, I think that it’s really important we document my findings.

Here is a list of what I found: lots of Styrofoam, about 15 water logged pounds worth, plastic and glass bottles, some of which were alcoholic and surprisingly still contained remnants inside, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and of all things a coconut, which I left there.

The interesting thing is that many of these items start to look like natural detritus, which I think, is a plus, to some degree. A while back I was in Hawaii taking pictures of shoreline garbage, which is virtually unnoticeable until you get close. In part because wave erosion, salt and sun convert it to look like everything else in the environment. What a coup.

Again, back to the Quay… so a few people walked by and asked what I was up to, in fact, one person took photographs, as if this was something amazing or covert. I explained that I was taking half an hour out of my day and putting it toward my own personal community initiative. I was going to pick up garbage and report my findings.

In closing, I would like to challenge all New Westmintonians to make their own community initiative. Find something to do that gives back to the community and report back. I’d love to hear from you.

In the words of Noam Chomsky

“We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

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Photo Supplied by River Market

Wild Rice is a game changer

Wild Rice on Urbanspoon Last Saturday I went to Wild Rice again. The server recognized us, and my husband commented it was the third Saturday in a row we’ve stopped in. To say we’ve been heavily sampling what Wild Rice has to offer New West would be an accurate statement; I’ve gone to a post-market late lunch, a fancy romantic dinner, a business meeting, and a birthday party. I’ve tried most everything on the menu and I’ve liberally sampled their infamous cocktails menu. I’ve been served by various staff and I’ve gone at various times of day. The short version of this review: Wild Rice changes what going out for a meal means in New Westminster.

Photo Supplied by River Market

Here’s the longer version:

In case you haven’t heard of the restaurant, Wild Rice is a recently opened tenant in River Market, overlooking the Fraser River. They’re open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week (Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30am to 10pm, Friday & Saturday: 11:30am to 11pm, and Sunday: 11:30am to 10pm) and offer simple, fresh and modern Chinese fusion “family style”; that is, share plates large and small you can share with your dining companions that come in no set order and in their own time as they are prepared by the kitchen. It’s the second location of the same name – the other is on Pender on the edge of Gastown in Vancouver – and much has been glowingly written about Wild Rice’s menu and service since the first location opened in 2001.

Chef Todd Bright leads a cooking class (photo supplied by River Market)

Chef Todd Bright offers dairy free fare and many gluten free and vegan options. Many of the ingredients have been carefully sourced from ethical, local, small scale producers by owner Andrew Wong, and this attention to detail is reflected in the prices on the menu. This is not the least expensive restaurant in town, although there are definitely bargains to be had – the lunch time truffle salt and szechuan pepper tofu with braised mushrooms, water chestnuts and fresh peas served in a bowl on rice may very well be the most perfect comfort food of all time for only $10.

Seared Albacore Tuna

My favourite items so far? Besides the lunchtime salt and pepper tofu which will keep me coming back with regularity (a fuller variation is also on the dinner menu at $13), I’d pick the seared albacore tuna with ginger shallot daikon, black vinegar reduction and toasted sesame seeds ($14), maple hill chicken kung po with twice cooked peanuts, local broccoli, rice noodles ($19), turnip cake with shiitake mushroom, smoked tofu and pickled vegetable salad ($7), and the vegetable spring roll with seasonable local vegetables, ginger soy dip ($8) for the top of my list.

Shrimp Toast (Photo Supplied by River Market)

My least favourite? Although I enjoyed the flavour of the hot and sour soup, I wasn’t “in love” with it – the broth to veggie ratio seemed high on the broth side and it just didn’t blow me away the way I was expecting it to. I have one other minor quibble: while their great local craft beer is well priced at $5 a sleeve, I find their per-glass wine prices a little high for New Westminster at $8-10 for a 6oz glass. (Update: Thanks to Wild Rice for the correction – their wine is 6oz not 4oz! )

Family-style modern Chinese fusion isn’t for everyone (one friend tells me “this isn’t real Chinese food”) but it is a type of eating I personally love. Like tapas style dining the now defunct Orange Room tried hard to capture but didn’t quite nail, I love sitting down with a group passing plates back and forth, and experiencing little bites of many kinds of food.

All in all, however, Wild Rice has so far lived up to the hype, and I find the unpretentious and cozy atmosphere welcoming and comfortable. The staff are top notch, happy to make recommendations, and know the exact right moments to appear and disappear. Two thumbs up.

Across the room (photo supplied by River Market)

But really, the point of this review isn’t about the food or the service – both well documented as being above average and star quality – as much as it is about how Wild Rice’s choice to set up shop in our community has changed what going out for a meal means in New Westminster.

For a very long time, the choices for a fancy dinner here in our city have been twofold for me: reliable chain eateries with predictable everything, or independently owned crapshoots that might be awesome or might be horrific from one visit to the next.

I don’t want you to get me wrong – there are a number of places I frequent and enjoy and heartily recommend (and many of them we’ve written about at length here on Tenth) in our city. Places like Okonomi Sushi or the Dublin Castle consistently impress me with their food quality and freshness. And while I can be spotted at Boston Pizza, White Spot, the Keg, and even The Boathouse, they are… well, predictable. The variables are not about the food; the variables in these familiar places are more environmental: service, parking, and how clean the bathrooms are. It becomes less about the sum, and more about the parts.

New Westminster News Leader editor Chris Bryan and I talked about the shift a few weeks ago when we talked about the Newsmaker of the Year - the feeling that New Westminster is once again becoming a golden city like in the early days of our province. Wild Rice is a part of that shift for me and has managed to completely change the game by capturing the essence of the experience I always want to have when I head out for a meal cooked by someone else without me having to leave my town. Wild Rice offers the trifecta of awesomeness – inventive food that surprises me, gracious staff who are able to be invisible and available at the same time, and decor and ambience I can’t get at home.

Simply? You should go.

Wild Rice is located in the River Market at 810 Quayside Drive. For reservations or info, call 778-397-0028 or find them online or Twitter or Facebook. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Light Up the Quay!

It’s time for the sixth annual Light Up The Quay, a fun and friendly competition put on by the Quayside Community Board that helps increase donations to the winter food drive and encourages neighbours to duke it out for awards.

Between December 1st and December 21st, stop in to The Boathouse Restaurant between 3:00pm and 6:00pm, seven days a week, with a non perishable food item for the Food Bank, and receive a Boathouse “Happy Hour Appy” for free. Yum!

Residents decorate their townhouses and condos to show their holiday spirit, and judging takes place next Tuesday, December 20th. The official judges invite the public to join them on their walking tour of the Quay Promenade and Quayside Drive and participate in the judging. The public can help influence the official judges in their determination of who wins.

Awards include Best Building and Best Building Lobby, and don’t forget the coveted 2nd annual “Clark Griswold” Award. This category was new last year, and has quickly become the category to try to win. This is the award for the most over the top Christmas light display, in true National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Fashion.

So if you know of a balcony, building or lobby that should not be missed by the judges, come down at 5:30 pm to the Boathouse Restaurant on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 (don’t forget your non-perishable for a free appy) and join the walking tour which starts at 6:30pm sharp.

Help support the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society in New Westminster, and join in on the bright fun!

Photo by Mario Bartel, used with permission

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Thoughts on Freelance Camp

Freelance Camp at the New Westminster location of The Network Hub. Photo: Jeremy Lim

Freelance Camp at the New Westminster location of The Network Hub. Photo: Jeremy Lim

I was lucky to win a couple of tickets to this years incarnation of Freelance Camp, thanks to Tenth to the Fraser! Freelance Camp is billed as an unconference; where presenters are chosen by the audience to speak to all matters relating to the freelance industry.

This year’s event was held on the second floor of the newly renovated River Market. It’s certainly a nice change to see an event promoting freelancing, networking, and technology come to little New Westminster. I think our newly emerging downtown needs this kind of exposure; perhaps spurring the growth of some technology based sectors in the area.
So what was my impression of Freelance Camp? My worry was that there would be maybe three of us sitting in a large conference room awkwardly staring at each other. Not a chance; there were approximately 170 attendees from all over the Lower Mainland.

If I had one complaint (actually, I have a few), it’s that it was perhaps oversold. The second floor of the River Market is a large open space with a few conference rooms, a toy store, and of course a circus school.

Given the large number of attendees and presenters, it was decided to break the sessions into four groups. I was little confounded when two of those sessions were held virtually next to each other in the mezzanine, while a yoga session with boom box was doing their thing in the adjacent circus school. Needless to say the presenters tried to speak above all forms of background noise. I think the event should have been capped to whatever seating could be accommodated in both conference rooms – that, or book the circus school as well.

Small quibbles aside, I managed to pick up quite a few pointers regarding my own freelance career. I should stress that for many, a freelance career is serious business. It’s certainly not something that happens on its own. I think the people who chose this route do so in order to find balance in their lives. You often hear that the real money is working for yourself. I can’t yet venture to confirm this, but it would be safe to say most struggle with it for many years before seeing real money. But it does allow a chance to reestablish a balance between work and family life. Many freelancers, myself included, have young kids in school and the schedule of dropping off and picking up leaves a pretty hacked up day in which to “go to a job”.

I sat in on a session that talked about contracts and how to protect yourself financially; a handy skill to have when working for yourself. My last session was with an inspiring young woman who transitioned to sales training from working as an electrical engineer! Needless to say it was quite refreshing to learn that anyone, engineers included can learn the art of salesmanship. And while I don’t endevour to become a salesperson; when working for yourself you’d better get used to the idea.

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Westminster Pier Park: controversial, audacious and vital

The future site of Westminster Pier Park. Taken July 2010 by Dennis S. Hurd.

The future site of Westminster Pier Park in July 2010. Photo: Dennis S. Hurd.

The news came out today that the Westminster Pier Park project is a finalist in the Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Awards (Update: We won in the categories of sustainable remediation technologies and technical innovation!), which recognize leadership and innovation in sustainable remediation technologies and excellence in neighbourhood project development. It rekindled in me the pride I felt in our city when I first heard about the proposal for this project. I was also reminded, however, that no matter how successful the park might be, it is likely to remain highly controversial in the near future.

Perhaps nothing better symbolizes New Westminster’s often polarizing politics than the Westminster Pier Park project. The ambitious, even audacious, $25-million project involves reclaiming a long stretch of blighted brownfield bordering the Fraser River for a new public park.

A 3D visualization of the complete Westminster Pier Park

A 3D visualization of the complete Westminster Pier Park

Even with two-thirds of the project bill covered by the federal and provincial governments, critics of the project blanch at the price tag, and fear that the cost could balloon if the site proves to be more contaminated than expected. But even at this cost, even if the cost goes up, what better omen for the future of New Westminster than to transform a tragically damaged ecosystem into a verdant oasis downtown?

This isn’t just another local park project. Westminster Pier Park is another beacon of hope that transformation can occur, that the mistakes of the past can be reconciled if not undone. As one of the oldest cities in B.C., the New Westminster of today is burdened with many mistakes made in the past, not only contaminated sites but forgotten cemeteries, historic institutionalized racism, and more. The true test of our city’s (and citizens’) character is what we collectively choose to do about it.

As John Wooden famously said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.” I don’t believe in heaping ashes on our heads over mistakes made by those who lived here long ago. All anyone can ever do is make decisions based on the best information available at the time. If our forefathers knew then what we know now, I’m sure they would have made some different choices.

Saddled with the mistakes of the past, it is up to us to decide whether we take responsibility to correct those things we do have the power to affect today. Ignoring New Westminster’s brownfields is an unjustifiable abdication of our responsibility to this place we love. I am proud to live in a city that has the chutzpah to take on the challenge of rehabilitating abused sites like these when it would be so easy to simply look away.

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Freelance Camp comes to New Westminster (plus, we have two tickets to give away!)

Since embarking on my own entrepreneurial endeavours I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see just how many people augment or even replace their 9-to-5 with freelance work. I always find it inspiring to meet people with the gumption to work on their terms. Some do it in a quest to seek balance, some are pursuing their passions and others are just making a little extra money on the side. Above all, it seems the biggest appeal is the flexibility and autonomy of a freelancer’s life.

It sounds like a dream, but freelancing has its challenges too. Support from mentors and peers can really make a difference. That’s where Vancouver Freelance Camp comes in. The second annual ‘unconference’ is coming up Saturday, September 10, from 9am to 5pm, just a few days before The Network Hub‘s grand opening at their brand new second location in New Westminster’s River Market.

An unconference doesn’t follow the usual program of speakers and panels at a conference. At most conferences the best part is meeting and learning from other people in your field. At an unconference, there is no divide between speakers and audience. The schedule is created the morning of the conference, and it is whatever the attendees make it. Anyone can make a pitch to be a presenter, and the freelancers vote on who they want to hear speak. Last year’s event offered a choice of 22 presentations for the 130 people attending, including some coming from as far away as Kelowna, Victoria and Seattle. This year’s event aims to be even bigger. This will be the first local event to use Google+ Hangouts to empower up to 25 people to view presentations and ask questions from anywhere in the world.

Registration to Freelance Camp is just $10 with the proceeds going to charity. For more information, or to register for the event, visit the website at http://www.thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp/ and follow Vancouver Freelance Camp on twitter at @604freelancers. If you’d like to enter to win two free tickets to Vancouver Freelance Camp, please leave a comment on this post before 2pm PST on Tuesday, September 6. Tell us about your freelance business (or the freelance business you’d like to start) and one piece of advice for other freelancers or one thing you wish you knew about freelancing. Once a winner is picked, Jen will let you know who won in the comments (the winner will also be notified by email, so make sure you include a valid email in the comment form).

The Network Hub is a coworking space, where freelancers and other entrepreneurs can rent desk and meeting space as they need it, one day a week, one day a month or all year round. It’s the place you go when you wear out your welcome at wifi-ed coffee shops but don’t necessarily want to rent your own office. The really good stuff isn’t the desk or the wifi or even the meeting rooms and mail service. It’s the opportunity to meet other freelancers, to learn from each other, expand your network of contacts and support each other as your businesses grow. As you can tell, I think it’s a good idea! (I’m planning to give it a try myself.) The Network Hub’s New Westminster location will open for business September 15. Pricing starts at $5 per hour or $35 per day for drop-in, $100 a month for a five-day pass, or $250 per month for permanent, dedicated desk space.

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Quayside Festival and Sale August 20th

Photo by eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee on Flickr

This weekend marks the 5th Annual Quayside Festival and Sale and I have to admit that this was one of my favourite community events last year. And it wasn’t just because I sold  a tonne of my unwanted cast-offs – it was because it was a nice sunny day and hanging out by the river is always a nice thing to do.

Says event organizer and Quayside Board president, James Crosty, “Over 7,500 people are expected to stroll more than a kilometer along the Boardwalk from the River Market to Quayside Park at the Rail Bridge. It is an event for the entire family-both young and old alike, or friends to enjoy being together while enjoying an incredible day of shopping, recycling, lively music, fun, festivities, eating, farmers market and so much more.”

The 5th Annual Festival is Saturday, August 20th, 2011 from 10am to 3pm and goes rain or shine. For more info, check out the Quayside Community Board’s website at www.quaysideboard.com.

 

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Emilio’s Deli a friendly, family-run ‘be yourself’ kind of deli

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

With summer beginning, families are starting to enjoy Downtown New Westminster and the Waterfront and exploring the River Market. A very friendly family at Emilio’s Deli is really making people smile, reintroducing them to the Market and starting to introduce themselves. People smell the fresh variety of cheeses and meats, but the also see and hear the friendly father and his sons getting to know people.

Tony Sr. is a very warm-hearted man with a wide range of interesting experiences in his life. He’s watched and learned from his family through his entire life about delis and cooking and has always enjoyed it. Tony “loves the public” and wanted to find a way to show and enjoy what he’s learned and create what he calls a “family-oriented, be yourself kind of deli” for people to enjoy and for him to enjoy as well. With that great spirit he’s worked together with Donald’s and the River Market to create Emilio’s Deli (named after Tony Sr.’s father Emilio), so the legacy of his father could live on through Tony and his sons.

Tony Sr., along with his sons Niko and Tony Jr. are building a fresh and diverse variety of meats and cheeses for the public to enjoy. The whole family wants people to tell them what they enjoy and they are having fun together working towards their goal. One thing that Tony Sr. knew people liked were “nice, fresh and hefty sandwiches made individually for people.” To make them best, Tony hasn’t got a list of sandwiches. He meets people and finds out directly from each person individually and makes them what they want for a great price.

As well as Tony Sr., Tony Jr. and Niko are a key part of Emilio’s Deli. Niko is a young man learning quickly and enjoys working with his dad. Niko loves the Waterfront in New Westminster because he is “amazed at the good people around here – everyone is so nice.” People are very special to Niko, so working with his Dad and meeting all the nice people is making him excited. He has many ideas about how to help more people enjoy Emilio’s Deli and so Niko and Tony Jr. work constantly with their Dad to learn about the meats and cheeses and find out what people want. Along with Tony and the boys, Tony Sr.’s girlfriend Roberta also likes to help out when she can to enjoy people.

The boys help people understand and enjoy the variety of flavors Emilio’s offer and they also are learning about the unique combinations of meats and cheeses that different people enjoy. Together the whole family wants people to come down to Emilio’s to meet them and enjoy the food. The family is smiling because “people are starting to phone for party trays,” “sandwich platters are on the way” and want to thank all the people for their great support. “Specials are on the way!” according to the whole family.

Emilio’s Deli is easy to find. They’re just inside the door of Donald’s Market. They want to work together to help and enjoy all the new vendors starting up now or coming soon to the River Market. As Tony Sr. puts it, he “enjoys everyone and enjoys watching them enjoy the great stuff he provides at the deli” and as Niko says, he wants people to “Give us a chance and you be the Judge.” Emilio’s Deli is a yummy and friendly place for people to enjoy the waterfront and explore the many new and tasty combinations of meats, cheeses and sandwiches. Tony and his family help the personality of the waterfront emerge in a new way, while helping the great family spirit of New Westminster live on as it has for 150 years.

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Fireworks viewing party at La Perla

Hyack Fireworks Poster

Hyack Festival Opening Celebration Poster

Change is good. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for tradition, but it’s nice to switch things up once in a while! And that’s exactly what Hyack is doing this year with the 40th Annual Opening Celebration of the Hyack Festival.

There have always been fireworks, at least always in my recent memory, as the big kick off to the annual Festival, but we’ve seen some changes in recent years with a location further down river. This weekend, the Fireworks barge is moving across from the River Market, and the Hyack Festival Association is hosting a fabulous viewing party from La Perla, the new banquet space.

When I worked at the Riverboat Casino, which used to be a great vantage point for the fireworks, I always looked forward to the Hyack Festival Fireworks weekend. The vibe was so energizing, people lining the boardwalk, music wafting in the air, and guests lining the rails of the Riverboat in anticipation of the big show. I always thought that once the Casino moved to a new location the best place to see them would be from that second floor space of the Market. I’m excited to find out if I’m right! Inside La Perla you’ll find plenty of appetizers, live music, dancing and an exclusive view of the main show.

La Perla

La Perla

Of course many will gather on the boardwalk and the parkade to join in the fun too. See you there!

Event details:

  • Saturday, May 21st: Hyack Festival Fireworks
  • Fireworks at 10pm
  • Tickets are $25 each or 2 for $40 for the LaPerla viewing party between 8pm and midnight
  • Call Hyack at 604.522.6894 for more details
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Two days of Easter fun in New West this weekend

Lots to do in New West this Easter weekend! Photo: Vanderdehaage (Flickr)

Lots to do in New West this Easter weekend! Photo: Vanderdehaage (Flickr)

In New West, we certainly know how to celebrate! When I moved here from Delta four years ago, I had a bit of a culture shock. I was amazed by the sheer number of festivals and events that take place in the city. In Delta, we had the Delta Days Parade, but there wasn’t really much else that was easy to get to. Here, we have something to celebrate every month throughout the spring and summer. For me, the Easter weekend has always been my unofficial kick-off to the flurry of festivals we have in the months to come.

This year, though, there are two days of Easter fun! There is, of course, the annual Antique Car and Easter Parade on Sunday, but with the re-opening of the River Market this year, there are now festivities on Saturday for everyone to enjoy, especially if family lunches and dinners take you out of the action in Queen’s Park on Sunday.

The fun starts at River Market’s Easter celebration on Saturday, April 23 from 10:30 to 2:30. It also happens to be Pedagogy Toys’ 4th birthday. Bloom Art Studio will be hosting Easter Egg Dyeing from 10:30 to 11:00. The Paddlewheeler Pub will be supplying hot chocolate and cookies to those who attend from 12:30 – 2:30. Much to my delight, I’ve found out that Crepes Des Amis will also be providing Sweet Apple Cider and French Sweet Crepes (and I can’t wait until they open at the River Market next month). There will also be tons of entertainment by the Vancouver Circus School, Jania Russell, and the Creole Jazz Band, not to mention face painting and balloon animals for kids – and of course, the Easter Bunny!

The fun continues on Sunday with the 31st annual Hyack Antique Car Easter Parade. The parade starts at noon, but you can come down to the Front Street Parkade starting at 10:00 to get an up-close look at the beautiful cars. There will be entertainment by the Fouruvus Dixieland Band, and the Easter Bunny will also make an appearance. The parade will start at noon and travels down Columbia Street to 12th Street, up 12th Street to 6th Avenue, and then along 6th Avenue to Queens Park. The cars will be hanging out at the park afterwards, so you can check them out when they arrive.

In the park, New Westminster Parks, Culture, and Recreation has their Easter Festivities beginning at 11:00 until 2:00. There will be special family games and treats for children 3 – 10 years old. The petting zoo will be open (hooray!) and there will be entertainment in the Bandshell for the entire event. There will also be face painting, crafts, clowns, and a concession with hot dogs, popcorn, and hot and cold drinks. Kids can also get their photo taken with the Easter Bunnies for a suggested $2 donation, with proceeds going to New Westminster Youth Services.
All the events go on rain or shine, and right now, the forecast is calling for good weather. I think after writing all that, I’m glad I’m not the Easter Bunny – he has a lot of places to be this weekend!

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Bloom Art Studio: messy & inspiring fun for kids

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Note: Bloom Art Studio has offered a special contest for Tenth to the Fraser readers! Comment on this post to before April 21, 2011 and enter to win four free classes at the studio (valued at over $60). Plus, ‘like’ Bloom’s Facebook page for another chance to win!

Bloom Art Studio at River Market is a safe place for kids to get messy – without driving parents crazy.

Owner Kimberly Chiem recently invited me and Jen Arbo to bring our kids down  to experience one of her parent-and-toddler art classes. It was a simple activity I remembered doing when I was in elementary school: first the kids lay down on strips of kraft paper so the parents could trace them, then the parents cut out the silhouettes and taped them to the walls and windows for the kids to paint.

Our kids painted their “shadows” on the windows of the studio. Wesley glopped paint on the floor and all over the chairs. Kale channeled Jackson Pollock and started flinging paint against the window.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Kim. “I’ll clean it all up later.”

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Magic words. At home, I like to craft with the kids, but I’m always a little leery of anything truly messy. It’s fun, but I always worry about the cleanup. In a space like Bloom, the kids are free to play with colour and form in a space that’s designed to handle mess. The washable paint cleans off their little wooden chairs and concrete floor. The wall is intended to be coloured on. And even the windows are fair game.

Wesley had so much fun that I brought him back another day, this time with his baby sister (aged16 months) in tow. That day’s plan involved fruit & vegetable stamping. Kimberly provided a plate with halved strawberries, bok choy, lemons, potatoes, apples and other produce and a selection of colourful paints. Once again the craft was simple (and messy): dip the fruit or veg in the paint and stamp it on paper.

Even my littlest enjoyed this craft, and when my son finished his prints and asked if he could have a brush to paint free-form, Kim was happy to go with the flow. A few little artists joined my son in asking for a brush, while others happily kept dipping & stamping their veggies.

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Bloom Art Studio offers a variety of classes and events for kids, including “mini-camps” over Spring Break March 21-25. You can sign up for a series of lessons or opt for the drop-in rate ($8.57 + tax during the winter session). There are even some activities for grown-ups: a monthly Occasional Knitter’s Group (launching March 25 at 7pm) and a Japanese Hand-Built Pottery Class.

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Fresh fish, bread, gelato and *coffee* coming soon to River Market

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

The $5-million reno of the dilapidated old Quay is unquestionably beautiful. But since the shiny new River Market opened with much fanfare last November, many New Westminster folk whocame to see the new building were disappointed to find only a grocery store, a circus school and a lot of empty storefronts. Others (like me) were more willing to give River Market some time to find its feet.

People expected a short hiatus and a basic cosmetic reno, but River Market needed more than fresh paint and a bit of spackle. The building needed a lot of TLC, sure, but more importantly, it needed purpose. It wasn’t enough to just fill space. River Market’s mix of tenants needed to be strong enough to draw not only Quaysiders ambling by for a cup of coffee in the morning, but also lure new shoppers from (gasp!) outside New Westminster’s borders.

Since the initial opening, a few more shops have opened up. Great Wall Tea has cultivated a base of loyal customers returning regularly for a cuppa. Pedagogy Toys pulled up stakes from Sapperton and reopened in a fresh, larger space across from Vancouver Circus School, with kids’ classes in neighbouring Bloom Art Studio. Tiny Goods opened up and began selling artisan chocolates, wildberry jams and other locally made products (Disclosure: I’ve signed on to help launch Tiny).

But a lot of empty storefronts remained. And the questions continued. Would there be another cold beer & wine store? What happened to the florist? Is there any hot food? And most frequently asked of all, “Why can’t I get a cup of coffee?!”

Well, I’m happy to say River Market’s got some welcome news: coffee is coming, and a lot more too.

First let’s talk about the coffee. The Gallo brothers of Yaletown Gelato & Espresso Bar have signed on to open a location within River Market. I’ve sampled a few Yaletown Gelato flavours, and it is wonderful stuff. They will have a full-service espresso bar, as well as a variety of flavours of gelato, made on site with fresh fruit and other quality ingredients. Mmmm, gelato affogato.

Also newly announced:

  • The Crab Shop, selling fresh wild seafood and shellfish, plus fish ‘n chips to eat on site. Owner Marcel Gregori catches local crab himself.
  • A bakery featuring breads, sweets, and homemade comfort foods inspired by Spanish flavours, run by husband-and-wife team Alfonso Fernandez and Katia Mayo.
  • The Paddlewheeler Pub Liquor Store will reopen within River Market, selling beer, wine & spirits

While those tenants have now confirmed they’re coming to River Market, they have yet to design & outfit their spaces. River Market shoppers will have to be patient a little while longer for them to finish that work, but it’s good to have something specific to look forward to.

There are other shops that are close to opening, now and over the next few weeks:

  • Donald’s Deli opened this week, bringing sliced meat & cheese to Donald’s Market
  • Orlando’s Catering is close to finishing renovations, and will offer banquet and reception space up to 300 guests for weddings and corporate events (the largest capacity in New Westminster)
  • Fraser River Bike Tours & Rentals will offer bike rentals, guided tours and field trips within downtown New Westminster
  • Make Kitchen will produce takeaway meals, sauces, spreads and other delicacies right on site, as well as offering catering and cooking classes
  • And my personal favourite, Crepe Des Amis is aiming to open in April with a selection of fresh-made sweet and savoury whole wheat crepes, sweet apple cider and frozen yoghurt

It’s a relief to hear that so many great shops are coming to River Market, and like everyone else in New Westminster, I can’t wait to see them all open! This is only the beginning, and I’m sure we’ll soon see much more at River Market.

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The United Boulevard Extension is back!

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

We’ve all seen the movie before. Just when the village was taking a breath, confident that after a long struggle they’d finally killed the monster… Surprise! It’s still alive!

For those who haven’t yet heard, Translink is back with a new round of consultations on the Highway Nobody Wants.  The first in a series of United Boulevard Extension workshops is this Saturday, 9:30am-12pm at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary Street.

More public consolation was one of New Westminster city council’s requirements for Translink when it put the brakes on the project earlier this year. So good for Translink in organizing this very comprehensive series of workshops to engage citizens on this large infrastructure project. They’re planning a series of 6 half-day workshops that will really take the public through from their concerns to visioning alternative designs.

Unfortunately, the other requirement Council put on Translink was not embraced by Translink: that the North Fraser Perimeter Road be planned and built as a whole project, not a piecemeal with the United Boulevard Extension being built years (or decades) prior to the rest. Which raises the question of why is Translink dragging it’s poor staff members to what are probably very expensive consultations for a project that simply won’t be approved by New Westminster because it still doesn’t meet their clearly-stated requirements? It seems like a fool’s errand, and a waste of money; something Translink isn’t exactly rolling in right now.

New Westminster Environmental Partners’ transportation sub-committee met last weekend to discuss the upcoming workshops, and every time we think about and discuss this project, new questions continue to pop up.

We began discussing this project as part of the bigger picture of the Gateway Project, and in relation to the King Edward Overpass project. By our count, when all these projects are completed, there will be 16 lanes of road running parallel to United Boulevard only a few hundred metres away. That’s 10 on the Trans-Canada Highway and 6 on Lougheed: an enormous increase in capacity.

It is also apparent looking at a map that these three roads are designed quite differently. Highway 1 is a straight, wide, with no traffic lights slowing vehicle free-flow (one of Translink’s stated reasons why they didn’t like “Option A” for the UBE is because it involved a traffic light). Lougheed Highway (note the word highway in it’s name) is another wide, straight road with few traffic lights. United Boulevard, on the other hand, is relatively narrow, barely wide enough for 4 lanes, and definitely not wide enough to accommodate the bicycle and pedestrian improvements Translink has promised. It’s also quite curvy, with a significant number of traffic lights, poor sight lines, and perpendicular driveways emerging on to it. It’s a local access road, not a connector road for hundreds of trucks per day. And with all the driveways emerging on to it, it would become a very dangerous road with a significant increase in car and truck traffic, unless all the businesses along United are willing to have their driveways closed off. We’ve all seen the traffic back-ups just to dump trash at Wastetech!

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

So why route the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a purportedly regional truck through-fare, along United Boulevard?  At this point the NFPR west of Mary Hill is just a grey line on a map, nothing’s been built. It would certainly be a lot safer and cheaper to shift that grey line to one of the two recently upgraded, wide, relatively free-flowing roads parallel to United Boulevard!

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

But what about Braid and Brunette?  The choke point Translink keeps telling us about?  The light causes traffic to back up (or acts as a valve for traffic in to New West some might say) and prevents it from reaching these wide, straight roads that are being built just across the border in Coquitlam. Wouldn’t, logic suggest we first try to fix the intersection?

Another observation that came out of the meeting was how this traffic light operates. When a train passes through the intersection, traffic in all directions comes to a grinding halt. You might ask “why does all the traffic stop when the train only intersects one side of Braid?” The simple answer is, for safety reasons, when a train approaches the level crossing the lights automatically go in to green for only the cars exiting the Sapperton Industrial Area, in order to clear the cars any vehicles that which are illegally blocking the crossing. Then the lights stay that way, forever, or until the train passes, whichever comes first.

Now we have identified one of the main “flow problems” at the intersection beside a very busy rail corridor: for safety reasons the cars illegally stopped on the crossing need to be cleared. However, after the crossing is clear, can we not get the traffic on Brunette flowing again? Get those cars and trucks over to the new, wide, straight freeway, rather than sitting there watching a train go past beside them.

Translink continues to say this $160-180 million project is about getting traffic flowing (except when they say it is about “goods movement”), but we contend there are cheaper, less invasive ways to do so, without even considering the previous discussion about reducing demand rather than trying to build our way out of congestion. With their ongoing tunnel vision regarding the United Boulevard Extension, it seems the only “flow problem” Translink is trying to solve here is the flow of $65 million of your Federal Tax Dollars.


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Great Wall Tea packs a lot of taste in a tiny space

Great Wall Tea

Great Wall Tea stores their loose-leaf teas in round tins attached to the wall with magnets. On the tin of each lid is an image of a teacup and saucer. Photo: Will Tomkinson.

Tucked away next to the escalators inside River Market, Great Wall Tea packs a lot of taste into a tiny space. While initially I was disappointed not to have a coffee shop open at the Quay, the silver lining is that this has encouraged me to expand my hot drink habits and try tea instead.

Great Wall has so many varieties of loose-leaf tea that it’s hard to know what to taste. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried so far, from the vanilla-infused Cream Earl Gray to the Ginger Rooibos. Plus, they will blend together different teas upon request. I’ve become a fan of a Chamomile-Lavender blend that my favourite Yaletown tea shop O-Cha has dubbed “Sereni-tea.” So soothing with a little honey. Plus, in my last visit I made the welcome discovery that Great Wall Tea is also set up to make tea lattes! I didn’t notice before that they had a milk steamer in the corner. The lovely women who run the shop recommended I try their twist on a London Fog that uses the Cream Earl Gray, and I intend to do just that on my next visit.

At launch there were only a few places to sit and sip, but River Market has now added more tables and benches in the sunny area at the heart of the space earmarked for food vendors, expanding the seating area beyond the barstools and low chairs immediately next to the shop. Plus, public wifi is coming to River Market (hopefully by the end of March, according to Community Services Manager Julie Ramirez), which will make the market a more attractive place for those of us who like a little Twitter with our tea.

Great Wall Tea Company on Urbanspoon

Like everyone else who used to frequent the New Westminster Quay before the renovations, I am eager to see the new River Market busy again with cafes, shops and people. Although there are only a few tenants open for business (Donald’s Market, Great Wall Tea, Tiny (disclosure: I have been hired to help launch the store), Pedagogy Toys, Bloom Art Studio and Vancouver Circus School, I am glad to see that they are all quality businesses who share a passion for what they do and for our community.

Great Wall tea is located inside River Market, at 810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster.


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Meet the historian devoted to the Samson V

Historian Mark MacKenzie, caretaker of the Samson V museum.

Historian Mark MacKenzie, caretaker of the Samson V museum.

Many afternoons or weekends over the past 12 years living on the Quay, I have seen amazement on the faces of children and elderly people pointing out on the river as they share tales of the past with a very knowledgeable person at one very special point on the waterfront. The place is the Samson V and the person is Mark MacKenzie, the smart man who devotes himself to the care of this wonderful ship.

I recently spent several afternoons on board the Samson V with Mark  to learn more about the fire that threatened the ship back in 1955. As Mark and I walked around on board, he proudly shared the evolving history and duties of the Samsons that have paddled on the Fraser for 130 years. Some of the equipment on board has lasted for many decades. Equipment visible in pictures of earlier Sampsons is out on the deck of the Samson V today. As he worked to clean the deck, Mark often pointed to cast or forged iron pieces that were built for earlier Samsons. He explained to me how the Samson pulled logs that drifted down the Fraser during spring thaws  from the sand on the banks to protect fishboats or tugs. The Samson V was used to dredge the Fraser for large ships crossing the Pacific to and from the wood mills and for importing and exporting goods from the Pacific Coast Terminals (where the Quay is now). Earlier Samsons helped launch many ships over the years from Star Shipyards in Queensborough as well as large First World War ships from Poplar Island in 1917.

Inside we climbed down around the boiler. Mark showed me the first growth cedar frame within the hull with the creosote-treated oversized beams that were fitted first before being treated to ensure a perfect and strong fit. He shared stories from former crew members and families about how different parts were improved, damaged and repaired over the years. He showed me the Samson V’s event logs and spoke of them with a working knowledge like no one else alive today.

Mark and I sat down on the top deck to chat about the fire in 1955 that caused great damage to the ship. The fire department purposely submerged the Samson in the Fraser to stop the fire. Mark explained to me all of the work that went into repairing the superstructure of the Samson, replacing the boiler and some of the hull and frame as well. He explained the long and drawn-out process to get the Samson working again. Later, I went to the New Westminster Museum & Archives and saw the huge expenses of well over $50,000 to repair the Samson so that she could proudly continue her work on the Fraser for another 20 years until 1980. As we walked and climbed around the ship, Mark pointed out many examples of the work done to restore the Samson. There are portions of the ship that have survived for almost 75 years and others that were made for earlier vessels years before that.

I always enjoy asking questions of Mark that I know will get him smiling. He loves to speak of the captains and crew who worked on Samsons and the great evolution of the ships over 100 working years. Mark shares pictures, documents and stories with me with an expertise like no one alive today. There is a great pride in his voice as Mark speaks of how he is able to help work and preserve the last floating example of a steam powered snag boat paddlewheeler in Canada and how she serves as one of the only surviving examples of the fleet of Public Works vessels that served so important a role on the Fraser River and on the West Coast of Canada.

I’ve never met anyone with the pride, knowledge and hope for the future that Mark shows for the Samsons. There’s only one thing that Mark Mackenzie does not speak of, but to me is just as important. That one thing is the honor that Mark should feel for being the most knowledgeable expert on the working ships of the Fraser and the work they’ve done for so long. I am proud to be able to know him and learn from him in my regular visits to the Samson V. I so very much hope that people around the city and on the river recognize this unique expert knowledge and continue to allow Mark to share it like he has done for so long and so does so well every day with so many people.

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United Boulevard Extension: What’s next? (Part 2)

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

Today in part 2 of our series we ask the question: Can the North Fraser Perimeter Road, creating a four lane truck route through New Westminster even be built?

How will that work? Let’s examine the feasibility of the City’s mitigation wish list. A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road?

There have been mentions of stacking the roads – how does that fit with Provincial dangerous goods regulations? There’s a reason why dangerous goods aren’t allowed in the Massey Tunnel or Cassiar Connector.

There’s been talk of pressuring the railways to remove one of their tracks – that still only frees up one more lane of traffic, we’re still not up to four if we want to maintain access to the retail fronts along Front Street.

What about behind The Interurban and Keg, there isn’t physically enough room to put four lanes between the existing building and the railway tracks. Are they going to shave a corner off this newly restored historic building for a truck route?

All of these are questions that have to be answered in order to make the City’s dream mitigation a reality, and despite years of talking about the NFPR and Front Street with ample opportunity to address these challenges they all remain unanswered. And now we’re asking Translink to suddenly plan and fund this route as one singular project, with adequate public consultation, before the March federal deadline? Really?

2011 is going to be an important year for transportation in New Westminster; the City is updating their Master Transportation Plan, the blueprint for transportation in the City. It’s up to all of us to push the City to get off the fence on these issues. If we truly want a four lane truck route down Front Street, show us the plans on how it will work. How will they make it all fit or which businesses and residents are they willing to sacrifice to shoehorn the road in there? Or should we look at alternative ideas and end the road building paradigm? The time for vague hand waving is over, we need a solid plan on how we want to see transportation in our city evolve over the next decades, the politicians have to get off the fence and make their opinions known.

Getting out of the car mentality is hard, for 50 years this is how we’ve designed and built our cities. We’ve allowed developments where eventual transit service which must follow will be difficult and expensive. As oil prices rise, the idea of cheap living in the burbs will quickly evaporate. With climate change and peak oil the days of motordom are numbered. Even if the fabled electric car becomes a reality we’ve already seen the private car paradigm doesn’t scale. On a recent trip to Seattle it occurred to me, throughout my entire life, over 3 decades, any time I’ve been to Seattle, I-5 has always been under expansion and yet it’s still gridlock during rush hour. The simple reality is no city, anywhere, has ever built themselves out of congestion. And if we think we have the magic plan to do so, we’d be very rich selling it to cities around the world.

But what are the alternatives when it comes to the NFPR? Parallel to the NFPR are three alternative transportation corridors. The Fraser River. The rail lines. And Skytrain. Could the travel demand that Translink projects for the NFPR be satisfied by shifting some of the current and future demand towards this existing infrastructure at a savings of over over $1 billion dollars to the taxpayer?

Studies say, yes. A report on Short Sea Shipping has stated there is a good opportunity to reduce emissions and traffic by sending goods by barge. With the completion of the Evergreen Line, we’ll have the equivalent capacity of a 10 lane freeway between Coquitlam and New Westminster. And the Langley-Lougheed rapid bus the province has promised upon completion of the Port Mann Bridge again has the opportunity to remove a significant number of vehicles from the road at a much more modest cost.

The stumbling block in creating an integrated goods and people movement system is there is no single body charged with creating it. Fraser River issues are a matter for the Port Authority, Translink has admitted it’s a good idea but has no mandate to get involved. Rail transportation is a Federal issue and the domain of private railways. The NFPR and Evergreen Line are a Translink issues. The Gateway project and Highway 1 are a Provincial issue. Zoning on where we put sprawling, low-density developments and business parks are a municipal matter. There is no coordination in creating a unified development and transportation plan, and hence we have the chaos and missed opportunities we see today. In this sea of competing interests and jurisdictions its important that we have a clear vision of what works for our City and what doesn’t. Its up to us to champion a workable transportation system for our City while respecting the need to move people and goods throughout the region.

But the obvious conclusion from all of this is if New Westminster council truly believes in protecting New Westminster’s liveability and IF we’re committed to building the NFPR as one unified project, keeping a standalone UBE on life-support for the sake of some Federal dollars which are pennies in the full project price tag makes no sense. Let it go and let’s start making a real plan for the future.

We have to have the hard conversation; can we make a 4 lane truck highway fit down Front Street? If the answer is no, as I suspect it will be, the city must stop dancing on the fence about conditional support for the NFPR only if unrealistic criteria are met. Development in our downtown and waterfront have been held hostage for far too long, we either need plans on how the NFPR will fit in to downtown New Westminster or to put our foot down and say no thank you, but you’re welcome to take one of the several other modes of transportation our City is fortunate enough to have on offer.

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United Boulevard Extension: what’s next? (Part 1)

Photo: Matthew Laird

Front Street. Photo: Pat Johnstone

We won; we stopped the flood gates of the United Boulevard Extension from opening and releasing the hordes of new commuter traffic on to already chocked New Westminster streets. Or did we?

New Westminster council has asked TransLink to continue consulting, designing, and to request an extension for the Federal money committed to the project. That sounds like a green light to me; despite a lot of public posturing by mayor and council that they wouldn’t support the project they haven’t actually said no to the UBE, they’re just tinkering with the details. A, B, C, or D are out, but something else might be acceptable.

But the lingering questions which have never been answered still remain. What about Front Street? What about the Queensborough Bridge which is already backed up during rush hour halfway down Stewardson Way? Where will all this new traffic the UBE enables actually go? How will TransLink ensure a route which is supposed to be for goods movement doesn’t get clogged and gridlocked with commuter traffic? The City and TransLink have danced around these issues but never actually directly addressed them. Sadly because of policy or in some cases geography they simply can’t, which should ring loud alarm bells for residents.

To their credit council has again asked that a UBE extension be tied in to Front Street mitigation, that the NFPR shouldn’t be done piecemeal with a decade or more gap between sections such as the UBE and Front Street. Fair enough. However the key in all this is what a full project with proper mitigation will look like. This is the detail the City has never defined, there’s only been vague hand waving about plinths, tunnels, “mitigation” and a few pretty drawings. In fact in the few details that have been released there’s been conflicting plans and flip flops with issues such as the future of Front Street as a retail corridor. A detailed plan on how such a project would be designed, how it would affect the existing Front Street, how it would fit in with newer City approved projects like The Interurban, have never been shown. The last estimate I’ve heard from a source inside City Hall about 5 years ago was over half a billion dollars to get everything on the City’s wish list, a number which is obviously far larger now.

Now that TransLink has been granted a 3 month extension on the Federal money, this raises the question, why didn’t TransLink produce a complete plan when they announced they were proceeding with the UBE project last fall? New Westminster council’s December 2010 motion on the UBE reaffirms their 2007 position that Front Street mitigation must be part of the UBE project. It was a key requirement when New Westminster agreed to engage in the UBE process more than 3 years ago. If they couldn’t produce such a plan after 3 years, why should we expect them to now produce a plan in just 3 months?

Which leaves two options. Staff (both in TransLink and City) will waste hundreds of hours developing a new UBE plan which will never be approved by the City because it simply isn’t possible to plan and fund a project costing well over half billion dollar by March. Or City Council will drop the demand for Front Street mitigation as part of the UBE, approve a new UBE design and the flood gates will be opened with nowhere for the traffic to go. Which is it going to be?

But let’s talk about the realities of the entire NFPR and its funding. What will it cost and how will it be funded? The project New Westminster is demanding, when all the pieces are put together (UBE, Front Street, Columbia/Front intersection, fixing the Queensborough again) will likely come in well over a billion dollars. If you include a new Pattullo Bridge, we’re talking potentially up to $2 billion. In any projects of such magnitude (and we’re told of strategic importance for goods movement in the eyes of higher levels government) both the Federal and Provincial government would most certainly be at the table.

In the scenario of a billion dollar project, which is what New Westminster council currently demanding, whether they realize it or not, as a condition of approving the UBE, a tiny $65 million contribution by the federal government is meaningless. If council is going to stick to its guns for an all-at-once project, why get worked up about $65m? We’re talking about a much bigger pot that needs to be filled to complete the whole project. Regardless, there is only one taxpayer, whether it’s from the Federal, Provincial or Translink, it’s still our money, and we still pay the bill. The quibble is over which set of politicians get to be the bad guys in having to find the money and which get to be the good guys in cutting the ribbon. They’re playing a game involving their egos and political careers using our money.

But lets say we could come up with funding in the ball park of $2 billion, what are the physical realities of building a 4 lane truck route through New Westminster? In the second part of this article we’ll examine the limitations of building a road through the heart of the oldest City in Western Canada.

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The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Today was the big reveal of Donald’s Market at River Market. Wow, can you believe that it was back in April that we finally learned who the New West River Market grocer tenant was? “Who would it be?” we all asked after months of guessing and deduction and mercelessly prodding River Market owener, Mark Shieh. But he wouldn’t say. Like Chuck Norris being interrogated by ex-soviet uranium smugglers, he vowed never to reveal the secret…. until finally, on March 31, he did.

And now, on the first day of snow at the beginning of the great winter of 2010/2011, more than half way through November, we can all see what Mark and his team from River Market have been building. I had my preconceptions: It would be small. It would be overpriced. Everything would be a little too crunchy, a little too righteous – a little too trendy for me and the gal I go with.

Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

But I was happily surprised! Sure there is a bit more space for Seventh Generation detergents and Happy Planet and Enviro Kidz and Nature’s Path, but they are part of the mix along side specialty foods, imported brands and food products from small producers and cottage industries. This was what I found to be the most compelling about this store: it has manages to differentiate itself from other options in town while not alienating the majority of potential shoppers with hard-to-sell product choices.

Other pluses: the prices are pretty good. Produce was of great quality and reasonable selection, at prices better than most New Westminsterites are used to (especially those reliant on the IGA). The quality was so good that even the small amount of fruit that we did buy (49c bannanas BTW) tasted noticeably better than the average. Prices through the whole store were in line with Safeway or Save-On-Foods – and better in some cases, as you would expect for a Grand Opening Sale. The Store was crowded and a little hard to move in but the staff were keen and helpful and obviously proud of their opening. Lots of Island Farms and Olympic Dairy products, Saltspring and Latin Organics brand coffee, bulk foods etc.

Another local blogger, Sheila Keenan, had a similar impression:

I’m not going to lie. I had my doubts, especially given that the renovations dragged on for so long and at least one of the tenant choices seemed goofy. When I heard the Vancouver Circus School was a tenant I was skeptical. What the heck is a circus school doing in a market? After attending the grand opening today, I found out what it’s doing there: being awesome. After all, which grocery store would you rather go to: normal grocery store with just groceries or grocery store where there’s a guy doing a handstand all the way down the escalator and a girl juggling all the way up? I pick the grocery store with the circus school. (In addition to classes, they are also going to offer birthday party packages.) I actually got a little teary-eyed on the drive home, thinking to myself that this marvelous place is in New Westminster.

I will be cautious in my criticism, as I am sure Donald’s and the River Market have a lot of work left to do, but there were some points I wanted to raise:

1)It is a tightly packed space. Sure it was crowded today, but even with normal foot traffic, I cannot see how anyone in a wheelchair, scooter or large stroller could navigate without a series of blushful apologies. The arrangement of cashiers doesnt help, but it is plain that Donald’s is making the most use of the space available.

Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson

2) Parking. It is the rare supermarket that requires a 200-meter walk to a paid parking lot. Donald’s will cater to a core clientele of condo-dwellers from the Quay and Downtown New West buying 2-3 bags of groceries, and it will feature a bicycle delivery service. But those of us in Queens Park and the West End who appreciate the curated inventory Donald’s offers will begrudge paying a $2.50 parking bill for the honour of lugging fancy groceries to the other side of the Fraser River Discovery Centre. I suggest a golf cart with a trolley behind it, like a hayride but no, um, hay. “Aaaaawll Abooord! River Market to Riverside Park by way of parking kiosk A and B!”

3) Similarly, the way into the rest of the market from Donald’s seems restrictive; like a too-narrow hallway. Do they need that wall there? For a packed space, they should use all of the free air space they can get.

That is about it! I think Donald’s will help to disperse the malaise that has settled in the minds of locals since the Quay Market closed. The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

For more photos of the new Donald’s Market at River Market, please see the album on our Facebook Page.

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P.S. New West – the winners are (belatedly) announced

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

A while back we partnered with River Market to host the P.S. New West poetry contest. River Market selected the winners and gave them the prizes, but their email to me with the winners’ names got lost in my email inbox. I just rediscovered the note today (oops). My inbox is a scary, scary place. Anyway, a bunch of you have been asking me about the winners, and here (belatedly) is who won. Sorry about the delay!

The winner of the PS New West contest is Toby Barazzuol. His poem reads: “She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer’s dream.” Toby’s poem is posted on the north side of River Market in huge lettering for all to see.

Wilson Becket submitted the poem that was voted as being the favourite by those that visited the site. His poem reads: “Where you want to be, for food, fun and laughter, you’ll find it at the Quay.” Wilson was awarded the iPad.

Today was the River Market launch of its anchor tenant, Donald’s Market (more on that in a later post). It’s part of River Market’s phased launch, which they compare to a multi-course meal. The ‘appetizer’ was the mini events held on the patio, including Donald’s pop-up market around Thanksgiving. The official opening of Donald’s is the second course, to be followed shortly by the opening of more food vendors. The third course includes the opening of Pedagogy Toys in early 2011, along with some new restaurants and catering companies.

FYI for those who want to keep tabs on what’s up with River Market, the best place to find up-to-date information is probably the River Market Facebook page.

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Pedagogy Toys to offer art & science classes for kids at River Market

River Market's Mark Shieh and Pedagogy Toys' Karen Smecher make the agreement official. Karen hopes to open the new Pedagogy Toys in River Market in early 2011. Photo: Pedagogy Toys

River Market's Mark Shieh and Pedagogy Toys' Karen Smecher make the agreement official. Karen hopes to open the new Pedagogy Toys in River Market in early 2011. Photo: Pedagogy Toys

New Westminster toy store Pedagogy Toys has been saved from closing thanks to a show of support from the community and a well-timed offer of skookum new digs in River Market at the Quay. Like so many other New West parents, I’m a fan of Pedagogy Toys, and so I wanted to find out more from owner Karen Smecher about the move from Sapperton to the Quay. Karen kindly agreed to answer a few questions via email:

How will the ‘new’ Pedagogy be different from the ‘old’? (or will it?)

Pedagogy will be better, it will be bigger and housed with like minded businesses in a fantastic setting. We will have the same retail features in a larger space which will allow as to branch out into larger products. In addition we will have a full classroom where Pedagogy Art will host Kim Chiem (registered art therapist) to work her magic on children of all ages. In addition we are going to have science drop-in classes and seasonal workshops for children. We are also launching fantasy Birthday Parties and this is just the beginning!

You said before that you planned to close the store. What changed your mind?

Since the news went out that we were scheduled to close, we have had such an overwhelming response from the community that it fully recharged my solar panels. Further more after being approached by Mark Shieh of River Market, we knew that here was a great opportunity to bring more into the community and Craig and I decided that we had to make it work!

When will you open the new store at River Market?

We hope to open Pedagogy Toys in Mid January and Pedagogy Arts in February. (fingers crossed)

On another note, have you got any tips for parents on what to buy their kids this Christmas?

Since children are very specific as to what they like at different ages all I can recommend to parents is:

1- Always look to see where the product is made,

2- Look for certification such as C E (stands for European Conformity meaning that a product in one of the controlled product categories cannot legally be sold in the EU unless it has passed the tests to receive the CE marking.) European standard EN 71 specifies safety requirements for toys. Compliance with the standard is legally required for all toys sold in the European Union. ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials. CHPA – Canadian market toys standard and ISO – Australian market toys standard

3- Be aware of the recent report concerning PVC levels in toys, primarily branded lines. These companies spend all their money on the brand and very little on the quality of materials.

4- MOST important, if you like the toy, you are drawn to it and it engages you, then you will spend more time playing and communicating with the most important people in your life.

Pedagogy toys will be open in Sapperton during the Christmas season, at 424 East Columbia St., in New Westminster. You’re also welcome to join us for our Tenth to the Fraser Exclusive Shopping Night at Pedagogy Toys, Saturday, Nov. 20 from 7-9pm.

If you haven’t been to Pedagogy, this video made by BCIT Magazine might give you an idea of what kind of toy store to expect:

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